Urgh, once again we reach the latter end of November and, although it's not mathematically impossible, anyone who's watched the Lions in depth this season knows that the game is up. When the opportunities appear to make a mark in this weak iteration of the NFC North and fight towards the post-season, the team disappears quicker than a Bears offensive drive. What makes it all the more frustrating is that this team clearly has talent in it's ranks and there are a few players who have really stepped up to the plate this season, but some of the weakest coaching in the NFL has held that talent in check and will ultimately force the franchise to have to start again.
That's where this article comes in. Another disappointing season has incurred the wrath of the long suffering Detroit fanbase, quite rightly so, and the calls for everything to be blown up and restarted from scratch are very loud indeed. So with that in mind, as I'm a defender of this roster and believe there is enough talent around to make sure that a FULL rebuild is not required, I'm going to become GM for the day and argue the case that it's a roster that needs refining around some already critical pieces, and that this along with a new competent coach to maximise the potential of that talent will see a newly defined team that is capable of bringing success to the beleaguered Motor City. Going through the roster by group positions;
There are two scenarios that play out for the 2021 Detroit QB's. The first one is Matthew Stafford decides he's going to have one more run at finding success with the franchise he has carried for the last 12 years, or his desire to win a Superbowl whilst he is still in his prime wins out and he requests a trade ( a decision I'd fully respect given everything he has given to this franchise). If the second wins through then we trade him for a very high draft pick as he is more than worth it and then immediately reinvest that into his replacement. However I'm GM for the day and I keep him so here's how the roster goes
Matthew Stafford - KEEP - Any team looking to build itself up needs players who bleed the franchise colours, who are driven and determined in the pursuit of success, and they need a franchise QB who is going to get them there. Stafford is all of those, and although the lack of post-season success would say that some of the aforementioned does not apply to him, the organisation has always insured he's had one hand tied behind his back, whether it be through completely neglecting the run game, hiring coaches like Patricia who simply don't play to his strengths, or fielding o-lines that have contrived to get him killed. Yes he has had a bad year and he'll be the first to admit it, but quite simply he is a guy who is capable of delivering success in the playoffs if he is surrounded by a stable team, and he absolutely needs to be convinced to stay for one last hurrah, whilst training up his eventual successor.
Chase Daniel - KEEP - For the record I found his signing and the amount he was signed for ridiculous as he's 34 and only thrown 7 TD's in his career, that's not showing the depth you need to be successful if your starter goes down. He's only staying as he punches a $5 million hole in dead cap through the finances if we cut him which given salary cap reductions makes this an easy call, not losing that much cap for a backup QB. We have an out for 2022 though and I'd be exercising that as soon as physically possible.
David Blough - CUT - Blough can hit the FA market at the end of this season, and we absolutely should let him for 2 reasons. First he did alright whilst Stafford was injured last year. But despite positive views towards him the team still felt the need to go spend a costly $4 million per year on Chase Daniel for 3 years thereby signaling the trust wasn't there for him to be backup or get that job anywhere in the near future. Secondly and the far more important reason, this slot needs opening up for Matthew Stafford's long term successor whom we absolutely must go out and get in the coming draft. Like it or not the sunset is approaching Stafford's career here and the organisation needs to be forward thinking in preparing for the future, let's get our new guy now and let him learn from an elite guy whilst we still have him. Blough is not that guy
Conclusion - We have our franchise QB which is the most important thing of all, we just need to jig around that third QB opening and get our guy of the future here.
Oh boy, hasn't this been a contentious issue all season. I don't think the plan was to start the season with AP on the roster, but he was made available and the Lions made their move before anyone else knew what had happened, I guess that's what Lions do though. For once Lions fans were optimistic about having an actual running game and Staff must have thought Christmas had come early, but as we delve into the stocking maybe we only found one present that was worth keeping long term.
Adrian Petersen - CUT - I am a huge Petersen fan, and I don't mean just his career, but his career as a Lion. He was brought in for 2 reasons, a cheap veteran who still has mileage left as a running threat and also to help develop the Lions draft prospects for the future. The first is difficult, he's only at 389 yards rushing and 78 receiving yards with 2 TD's over 10 games and those stats scream bust. I would however counter that by saying that's not the full story as we have one of the worst OC's in recent memory and the playcalling is so incredibly predictable that it's near impossible to get good production when the opposition defences know exactly what is getting dialed up, especially as he's not the sprightly all feared RB he once was that can make special plays to overcome the playcalling so I'm giving him a pass. On the second front I think he's been a rousing success. With D'Andre Swift breaking out of course you'll get the 'he should have started straight away' hindsight brigade but the Lions for me handled it perfectly in introducing him, and listening to both guys talk about one another you can see how much an effect having a future HOF'er mentoring him has helped Swift and that'll be to the Lions benefit for years to come. Sadly for AP with Swift taking the mantle as our lead runner the need for him reduces dramatically. Given budgetary constraints if he wants one more year here on the vet minimum with the understanding he's purely a backup I wouldn't be averse to the deal, but we really need solid depth at RB to become a contender so I think we look elsewhere. D'Andre Swift gets promoted to this number 1 role for 2021.
D'Andre Swift - KEEP - I mentioned that there are a group of Lions who have stood up to be counted this year, if Swift carries on with his current productivity he's absolutely going to be in that group. A tough start after that drop against Chicago revealed a determined personality who wouldn't let it affect him when others may have faltered. He patiently waited behind AP whilst learning from the future HOF and showed his ability in the blocking game whilst his running was not required, and when opportunities to lead the backfield arose he took them with both hands, posting a 100+ yard game against Jacksonville and then another near 100 yard effort against a formidable Washington defence. We are seeing the emergence of a tough runner who is very handy in the pass game and may become the best duel threat back Detroit has seen in some time, providing he keeps up the productivity levels . Depth behind him however is an issue that needs resolving
Kerryon Johnson - KEEP (Just) - This is such a difficult analysis. First I'll start by saying all the stick he gets is unwarranted and he deserves more respect. Kerryon has been relegated to mainly blocking back (of which he has actually excelled in the role) and occasional 3rd down guy but we so rarely use the back on 3rd down as we are usually 3rd and long. What we know is he has talent, and early on in his career he looked REALLY good but has been one of those pegged back by injuries. But something isn't right, he's stayed healthy this year and then when given the chance in he outing against Carolina he never showed. He needs to start showing some tangible progress outside of been a great blocker. But I go back to the OC, I think his vanilla playcalling is holding back members of our offense and Kerryon may be one of those suffering. The reasons I keep him, first it's financially prudent, with AP going if we cut or trade KJ that means we need to find multiple new backs and that may cost us more, he's still on his rookie deal which helps against the reduced cap. From Kerryon's standpoint, next year is his contract year, and if he wants any chance of getting a big payday this is the year he has to emerge, so for him he has a point to prove and Detroit may benefit from an enthused RB looking for a contract payday. I still see a good RB in him and I want us to be beneficiaries of that.
Jamal Agnew - CUT - He could appear in any number of positions to be analysed but I've just put him here. I keep hearing about our swiss army knife of a guy who can fit in all over the show and give us a dynamic edge on the offense. He has 48 receiving yards in a season our receiving corps has been struggling and just 15 rushing yards so he's not contributing to either facet of the offense. I needed to see him show up against Carolina when we were missing our slot receiver and were short at RB which are supposedly the gaps he can fill and we barely heard his name mentioned. We've cut away a lot of promising talent like promising duel threat 5th round draft pick Jason Huntley as Agnew is meant to be able to fill in anywhere meaning more roster places can go elsewhere, but to be honest I'm fed up of Patricia's philosophy on having multi-skilled players who can drop in on a variety of positions. I want players who are highly skilled in one position (or duel threat if they are a RB) so they can fully focus on that position, not lesser skilled guys who can cover in 3 or 4 different areas. Just keep it simple. Agnew is a FA this year and to FA is exactly where he should head. *DISCLAIMER* Yes I'm still pi**ed off about them cutting Huntley, he'd have been such a valuble asset next season.
Jason Cabinda (FB) - KEEP - What it says on the tin, Cabinda stays as FB.
Jonathon Williams - CUT - He hasn't been seen, probably doesn't need to be seen, obviously a deep depth guy and he hasn't been called upon so let him go.
Conclusion - Swift is the future of the franchise if he carries on at his rate of development so we have a good RB option. Kerryon for me provides good value for money if he can be convinced to see out his contract here and turns up the heat in his contract year. And this is where I get annoyed, Jason Huntley would have been such a great depth guy who could have continued to develop whilst providing a useful depth option at receiver and running back and he's on his rookie deal so would have made financial sense. Now we have a hole that needs filling at running back and we'll have to pay for that. I'd take a cheeky waddle into the FA market, the market is stacked with good RB options which means value is there to be had as they can't command top dollar. You may ask why would I want a good RB when we have Swift, well I think we should double down on the position and not hold Swift back but give him a friend to give our backfield a wider range of attacks going into 2021. Phillip Lindsay I'm looking at you. Swift, Lindsay and Johnson would be a very acceptable running back attack going into 2021.
Detroit has a sore recent history when it comes to Tight Ends, we all know I am mainly talking about the decision to draft Eric Ebron when Aaron Donald was still on the board and we could have paired him with Ndamukong Suh, man we can dream of the devastation they'd have caused. But what do we look like going forward in this department?
TJ Hockensen - KEEP - 12 months ago the HockMaestro was already getting labelled a bust (this is relevant for when I talk about Okudah later). A hot start soon cooled down as TJ started channeling his inner Ebron by dropping a few passes and struggling to build the trust bridge with Stafford and then got cleaned out by injuries. This is why there is a section of fans in the Lions base who are considered quite critical, it's far too early to call time on a players career. 12 months later and Hock is a genuine top 5 Tight End and I mean that. He's worked hard on his catching and is now one of the most reliable catchers on offense, his ability to pick his routes and his matchups has grown rapidly and when he's not getting completely mis-used as a blocker he represents a very dangerous target with 4 touchdowns for the season which is double his rookie year. Whoever takes over has a big weapon for his offense and the way TJ is developing he will be great value for the 1st round pick we spent on him. Just needs to work on his blocking game but he's only played 18 games and his game will develop with more experience. By the time he gets his first contract he'll be on par with Kittle IMO.
Jesse James - KEEP OR CUT - Has Jesse James been good for the Lions? No. Has Jesse James been worth his $25 million contract so far? No. Can we blame enough of it on the coaches to excuse him and give him another shot?............Maybe. It feels like sometimes we don't maximise his potential as an offensive threat. For me this comes down to what we can find for value. TJ for me right now needs to be more of an attacking TE than getting asked to block too often so if we can find a good blocking TE at decent value then possibly we take the out on James's contract and roll with Nauta as well. Or cut Nauta and find a cheap blocking TE option and have TJ and James as offensive threats. As far as James goes if he stays we need to see much more productivity from him.
Isaac Nauta - CUT - He's moving between the practice squad and the match day side most weeks and seems to be a rotational option at best. As said on James's feed if we can find a specialist blocking TE then I'd cut whichever of him and James that makes most sense from a financial standpoint.
Conclusion - Unlike Ebron, this time we have a guy who is proving worthy of the draft capitol we invested in him and any coach who comes here is going to have a potent threat from the TE position. Depth wise we need to certainly look around and see if we can squeeze more value from the backup positions, but it's not an area of the team that is high priority for fixing.
As this article is way longer than was intended it will now be getting broke down into sections and released over a period of time. What do you make of my predictions so far? Do I have a future as a GM or should I stick to the day job?